My name is Shu, I am a Natarian bird of prey.
I used to live in the village Nekhen in the Travian lands a few miles from the Natarian capital Atum. My whole life was dedicated to serving my beloved Natarian emperor Asur.
Ten years ago, I was sent on a secret mission to discover a new land for my tribe, a land where we could thrive again. It was a long and difficult mission, and now that I am 40 years old, I am returning to tell my story.
I have decided to investigate further and provide all my findings to Emperor Asur. You must know that Natarians are a very solitary tribe, we do not mingle with tribes beyond the gray zone. They might not know what’s going on, so I have to tell them. And you won’t believe what is happening here…
I: Reggia Latina
I have arrived near Reggia Latina. I must tell you, while I know this area well, it feels unfamiliar. There is something in the air…
My bones bear the mark of the many mountains and fields I have traversed. It has been an arduous journey and, at times, more than a little dangerous. We must think twice before traveling here unprepared. My trusty companion Nenet, however, seems completely unaffected by the journey. He glides through the air as effortlessly as the first day I found him.
I was still miles away when the tallest towers of the Roman village appeared on the horizon. The town lies at the base of a mountain, which not only offers protection but also valuable iron mines. It is surrounded by well-positioned forests, crop fields and clay pits. Every worker’s path here is designed to be as short as possible.
As I approached closer, I could see that the whole village was encircled by a strong brick wall. Impressive. Nenet was circling the perimeter and cawed to inform me that we were soon within sight of Roman guards. I entered the nearby forest and put on my Roman attire.
It baffles me to this day that a civilization so advanced still runs around in sandals. As I walked toward the gate, I could see that the guards were diligently patrolling the area. However, it was nearing the end of the day and lots of workers were returning from a day out in the fields. I easily blended in with the constant stream of villagers. To make sure I would enter completely unhindered, Nenet cawed loudly and started flying in strange patterns. Everybody looked up immediately. The Romans were obsessed with bird omens…
Once inside, I was amazed. Everything was in motion. Hundreds of voices were shouting over each other, people ran back and forth with carts full of resources and soldiers paraded past in perfect unison. I passed a large, round building with a dome completely made of gold. Mean-looking soldiers were stationed outside. I wonder what, or who, they were guarding in there? I saw horses drinking out of a trough that would have been luxurious even for our noblemen.
I decided to leave when I met the gaze of a man walking toward me. He looked me sternly in the eyes. He was dressed in white with a red robe gracefully slung over one shoulder. It could only have been the village’s senator. Did he know my secret? I held my breath as he walked past me. He didn’t know. I, however, immediately realized the potential value of the situation, so I began to follow him. He entered another grand building, with two floors and vines growing up its sides, pointing toward an ornate balustrade. I sneaked up to one of the openings in the wall and started listening.
The senator was eagerly talking to another man. This man had a thick accent and he called the senator Gnaeus Titianus. Good to know. They were complaining about a village not far from here that had been founded by a new people who had no right to claim the area for themselves. Or so the Romans thought. Apparently, these people were experts in resource production. I could hear a note of envy in the senator’s voice – something rare for a Roman. It was clear to me that I had to visit these people myself. I was about to head away when I heard the senator mention their name.
He called them Egyptians.
After leaving the Roman village, I immediately began my journey to visit the Egyptians. Their village, as I found out, is called Tanis. Crop hills gradually made way to sand dunes. The air was dry and the sun was burning relentlessly. I had replenished my water supply in the Roman village, but I was already running low again.
Nenet was dutifully flying ahead. He had warned me many times of false images on the horizon, which I had mistaken for villages. When I finally saw large blue flags, and Nenet did not object, I felt great relief. Several big cylindrical buildings with flat roofs could be seen from afar, taller than most buildings I had known. They were built of mud brick but with fine edges made of blue stone. An intriguing symbol graced the front of each building.
I walked past the surrounding crop fields and toward the village gate. Although it was noon, many villagers were working tirelessly in the scorching heat. I had donned my Egyptian attire long before, as it was the only suitable choice in this weather. I made sure to look like a man of power, so none of the guards would dare to question me. With my head up high and a serious gaze, I walked past the guards and into the village. They became tense, but a misspoken word now might cost them their tongue later had already suspected it, but now I knew the Egyptians’ secret.
The Romans were hard workers, but they also liked their breaks. But never had I seen people exert themselves harder than here. Workers were sweating and breathing heavily, and even those carrying the heaviest bricks never stopped for a rest. My attention was drawn to a truly remarkable building. It transported water through cleverly laid pipes into the whole village. Patches of green could be found close to the pipes, bringing life to an otherwise barren ground.
Fascinated, I continued along my path. Between the large cylindrical constructions was a smaller, rectangular building with a tall chimney attached. Loaves of bread were cooling down on a wooden counter. Savoring my fresh snack, I came upon one of the most magnificent buildings in the village. It was two floors tall and built not only of mud brick but also sturdy limestone. It consisted of many meticulously crafted elements and its edges were embellished with blue stone. This building was clearly important. I had to look inside.
With everybody out working, I was hoping for the house to be empty. I quietly climbed through one of its openings. The room was dark and cold. Plenty of weapons were hanging on one of the walls. Yet I was more interested in the scrolls spread on a table near me. They showed the drawings of a foreign village and a few sketches of large carts that would be used to carry resources. The Egyptians certainly had no such contraptions. A noise came from the second floor. I had to move. I took one more glance to figure out if I could get the name of this village. There it was: Teutoburg. That decided it.
My next destination would be to visit the Teutons.
After successfully infiltrating the Egyptians, I set off to Teutoburg. Most of my journey passed through a gigantic forest which seemed to never end. The air at night was cold, but the Teutonic clothing made of hide and leather kept me warm. Tall, evergreen trees pointed towards a clear sky full of stars, which helped me orientate myself while Nenet slept on my shoulder. After a short rest, I reached Teutoburg. The morning mist now lingered all around me.
The first thing I noticed was the smell of fresh hops. Curious. Some men were chopping wood not too far away from me. They picked up the logs effortlessly, as if they weighed barely more than feathers, and carried them inside the village. I approached the lumber camp and grabbed one of the smaller logs – it was certainly not made of feathers. At least it would allow me to enter the village undisturbed. Yet when I reached the gates, it seemed as if the guards didn’t care about me at all. They were playing cards and drinking a brew that smelled herbal with a note of citrus. Fascinating.
I entered the village and realized that, apart from the mud wall surrounding the village, everything was made of wood. Looking around, I now understood where the smell came from. There was a wooden hut, with a barrel of almost the same size next to it. The barrel was connected via a pipe to two long cylindrical objects. Behind the building were several smaller barrels. One of them was open and the Teutons eagerly refilled their cups from the liquid stored inside. It seemed to give them strength, but also an odd sense of humor.
I strolled over and took a sip of it myself. It tasted bitter, but it warmed my cheeks. But I was here to unveil another mystery: the story behind those large carts that the Egyptians had drawn. I thus carried on with my search until I came upon a building with two floors and a stall next to it. Inside the stall was a wooden cart that could fit three people on it. It was an excellent specimen of woodworking. Not far away, there were several small stands huddled closely together, each displaying valuable goods such as vegetables, sheep, bread and even jewelry. The Teutons seem to like their trading.
After recording everything I had seen so far, I grabbed some bread and carried on. A huge building marked the center of the town. Like most buildings here, it had a tilted roof. Yet this one was different. Many smaller roof tiers were positioned on top of larger ones to create several distinct areas of the building. It was probably used for a range of different purposes. A large, blue symbol was displayed on the door. I walked closer to inspect it. That’s when I heard the war cries.
Warriors on horses appeared out of nowhere. The men jumped off and began raiding the town. Some already returned to their steeds with their bags full of loot before the Teutons even knew what hit them. Their speed was incredible. Two soldiers looked at me and nodded at each other. I don’t know if they mistook me for someone else, or if they knew I didn’t fit in. But before I knew it, they overwhelmed me, tied my hands together, threw me on a horse, and rode off with me.
We rode for a while. When we arrived, I was thrown into a prison cell without a word. They inspected my bag, but at least they couldn’t read my diary. At night, Nenet returned to me and pecked at the rope binding my hands until they were finally free. I now write to you in fear that this letter may be my last. Please tell my wife and daughter that I did everything within my power for our empire.
A week had passed in prison. Every day I received bread and water, but my pleas were never answered. Nenet visited me often, sometimes bringing me nuts or grapes. My cell was small. Day and night, I looked out the only opening and waited. And observed. I had already figured out that my captors were Gauls, and I was in their village called Celtica. It was an intriguing place. I could see a house, two floors tall, built with stone and reinforced with wood. The roof was made of straw. Outside this house were several large rocks, and a craftsman was chipping away at them to make bust sculptures and other objects.
There was another building I could see from my cell. It was round with a thatched roof and a chimney. An open space in front of the building was walled off. Many small items were lying around, including saws, ropes and metal chains. The Gauls struck me as very skilled stonemasons. They also seemed like they were constantly worried about intruders.
Guards walked past my window sometimes. One of them still had my bag with my belongings. I needed my diary back. One morning, I was given bread and water when a breeze drifted through the window. With that breeze came frenzied shouts about an invasion. The man in front of me dropped the plate and ran outside. The door was left open. While this seemed like a gift from heaven, at the same time I knew that it might lead to a fate even worse than my current predicament. I slowly walked to the edge of my cell and peaked around the corner. Nobody was within sight. Just a door leading outside.
I approached the door and opened it. The whole town was agitated. Traps were hidden in strategic positions. Small rock formations on the ground were opened to reveal a hideout for valuable goods. Resources were quickly thrown inside. I noticed the soldier carrying my bag. I immediately began to follow him but people running in all directions made it difficult. Somebody knocked me over. By the time I got up, I had lost sight of my target. Nenet cawed. He had been following him in the air.
I paced past a formation of tents. Soldiers came running out, arming themselves with spears and shields that were stacked there. Their leader, tall and with a mighty mustache, barked some orders. Warriors on horses rode past. I was worried about being noticed, but everybody’s attention was firmly ahead. I reached a large opening where most of the soldiers were gathering. I finally saw the man again. But he was no longer carrying my bag.
I stayed back and began scanning the place for my belongings, when shouts arose about the enemy’s arrival. Foreigners. A whole army of horse riders. The leader of the Gauls gave his final command. Everybody braced for impact.
The Huns were coming.
The Huns arrived in Celtica and brought with them terror. The village gate burst open and an endless horde of mounted warriors stormed through. Shields broke, traps snapped shut and soldiers cried out. After a few minutes of mayhem, the battle was over and the victorious Huns began ransacking the town. I kept my eyes fixed on my belongings. Soon, the dust would settle and I would be able to leave this place.
A group of warriors walked towards my bag and searched it. They opened the diary, stopped, and began to look around. They paused when their eyes reached the direction of my hideout. Terrified, I stayed completely still. A few moments later, they looked at each other and put the diary back into the bag. There was definitely something peculiar about their behavior. I tried to listen to their conversation, but they were just too far away. As they mounted their horses and left, I thought I heard them mention one name: Gnaeus Titianus. Surely a mistake.
They left a horse behind. Strange. Trap or not, I had to follow them. I put together a Hunnic outfit, climbed on the horse and rode through the broken gates of Celtica. I was then joined by another band of warriors. I attempted to blend in, but they strangely paid no attention to me at all. They sang and cheered to celebrate the successful attack. Some stood with both feet on the back of their horses and put on a little dance while riding along.
We rode across empty plains and grasslands towards Askuzai, the home of the Huns. I struggled to keep up the pace of my company, who must have learned to ride before they could walk! Nenet was following me at a distance. He was probably afraid of the deadly archery skills the Huns had displayed earlier. The village was already visible from far away, as nothing was here to obstruct the view. Everything in this area appeared to be accessible on horseback by design. Yet, something else felt unusual about this region. Something strange was in the air…
We rode through the gates at breakneck speed and only slowed down when we arrived at a wide, open square in the center of the village. The troops from the raid were gathering here. In front of us was the statue of a Hunnic warrior on a horse standing on its hind-legs, while the warrior held out his bow. The Huns were cheering and sharing stories of the attack, one braver and less believable than the next. I noticed Nenet circling another a corner of the village.
I got off my horse and walked in Nenet’s direction. There were barely any traditional houses, but I passed plenty of tents. Smoke billowed from a large chimney that stood in the open, next to a wooden shack with a roof made of felt. A hammer and anvil as well as various weapons and armor were placed around it.
Noise came from nearby. I walked past a shelter where several horses ate fresh grass and rested. The shelter had two roofs, one made of wood and one of felt. Hay was stored in a separate compartment. It was certainly odd to see horses without a Hun rider on their back. I moved on toward Nenet. He was flying over a building of considerable size. It stood on wooden posts with walls made of hard fibers and a roof made of felt. I walked toward the opening of the building, between two burning bowls, and entered. I found myself in a spacious, circular room.
Here sat the senator, Gnaeus Titianus. He was inspecting my diary, before looking up to greet me. A smile spread across his face. Then he began to talk. He told me that he now knew who I was. And that, while I had been gone for 10 years, this world had changed entirely.